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  • William (Bill) Calin (1936-2018)
  • F. Regina Psaki

William Compaine Calin died on May 20, 2018 at Lake City Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida at the age of 82.

Bill Calin was born on April 4, 1936, in Newington, Connecticut, only child of Isadore ("Jack") Calin and Nettie Compaine, originally from Romania and Russia. Bill often described his parents as committed communists; their son, as some apples do, rolled as far from the tree as possible. Bill loved talking politics; he relished disagreement and debate, and never saw any reason for such conversations to become aggressive or divisive. He deplored the factionalism that has riven American politics and the disappearance of the concept of "loyal opposition." If Bill could have bottled his gift for lively yet friendly—even affectionate—political wrangling, he'd have made a fortune, and the entire polity would have been the better for it.


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Bill in 1963 (Guggenheim archives)


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Bill in May, 2017 (photo by Kathryn Klingebiel)

Bill studied in Paris during his junior year in college. There he fell in love with French Romanesque and Gothic architecture, which led him to his research and teaching specialities of medieval French and Occitan literature and culture—as well as to middle English and, later, to modern Occitan, Breton, and lowland Scots. His published obituary noted that "While he published more in one lifetime than many could do in five, his creative and analytical energies would have taken five lifetimes to exhaust." This is no exaggeration, and no short tribute can do justice to the variety and copia of his publications. Fully 25% of [End Page 224] his published articles are dedicated to Occitan; this tribute will highlight some of his Occitan professional activities.

Bill took his undergraduate degree at Yale College (1957) and his Ph.D. from Yale University (1960). From then on, in his teaching and writing alike, he communicated both his knowledge and his love of the rich contributions that France has made to world culture. He taught at Dartmouth, Stanford, the University of Oregon, and, since 1988, the University of Florida, as Graduate Research Professor in French Literature. He was a visiting professor at academic institutions in North America and Europe and delivered 230 conference papers and invited lectures.

A quintessential teacher and researcher, Bill won eleven major grants from national and/or international scholarly organizations, including the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Program, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He was an International Vice President of the Association Internationale d'Études Occitanes (1993-2002). He was on the editorial board of numerous journals, including Tenso, and served in many international organizations, such as the Centre international de l'écrit en occitan (1996 until his death) and the MLA Division of Provençal and Catalan. He was proud to have been elected a Sòci dóu Felibrige in 1993.

Bill published twelve books covering a broad range of French literature, from the earliest epics of France, through the lyric production of poets such as Guillaume de Machaut, to modernity and medievalism. His expertise also included the so-called 'minority' languages and literatures of the British Isles and France, on the one hand, and the ways in which the modern world imagines, studies, and understands the Middle Ages, on the other. His later books include The French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval England; Minority Literatures and Modernism: Scots, Breton, and Occitan, 1920-1990; The Twentieth-Century Humanist Critics: From Spitzer to Frye; and The Lily and the Thistle: The French Tradition and the Older Literature of Scotland; Essays in Criticism. In addition, Bill published over 120 articles and book chapters on many topics (see below for those on Occitan) and reviewed [End Page 225] 27 books in learned journals. His last Occitan essay appeared in Spring 2018 in this journal, a fitting conclusion to his career as an occitaniste.

Bill was twice married and remained dear friends with his former wives. Though he had no children or siblings, he is survived by many whom he called "academic daughters and sons," whom he mentored...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0146
Print ISSN
0890-3352
Pages
pp. 224-231
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-10
Open Access
No
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